My family lives in Portland, and as that’s not too far from Corvallis, I often like to go visit them on the weekends. I don’t have access to a car on campus, and so for the entirety of last year was dependent either on taking Greyhound or finding a friend who also wanted to go back who I could tag along with. Though this was an acceptable arrangement, it was frequently inconvenient because I had to work my departure schedule around when either the bus or the friend I was riding with was going to leave town, and would often have to prematurely end my visits as a consequence of needing to adhere to my ride’s return schedule.
Earlier this term, there came a weekend where I wanted to return home but didn’t have the money to spend on a ticket and couldn’t find anyone who was willing to take me, and so was faced with a conundrum. How was I going to get myself back? I had been considering riding my bike to Portland for quite some time, though had never gone through with it because of a combination of always having an easier option to me and having heard that the roads that are available to get there aren’t very safe. However, I was extremely motivated to get myself home, as it was my best friend’s birthday and I refused to miss it, so I decided to give it a go.
I initially thought about just taking the highway the majority of the way, as I’m pretty bad at directions and was concerned about my competency at being able to find my way along back roads, but this is the option that I ultimately decided on. I figured it would be better to get lost than to get hit by a speeding semi on 99.
The longest single bike trip I had taken prior to this was around 45 miles, and this time I was looking at a distance much closer to 90, so I decided that it would probably be in my best interests to over-prepare so that I would be able to effectively handle any potentially problematic situation that happened to arise with minimal difficulties.
I made a mental checklist of everything that I thought I would need and assembled and packed it away in my bike jersey, a pair or cut-off jean shorts I put on over my spandex riding outfit for the extra padding and pockets, and the built-in back pockets on my cycling jersey. I brought the following:
-Two spare tubes in case of flats
-A 15mm hex wrench for taking off my wheel so flat changing was possible
-3 tire levers for tube changing
-5 granola bars
-3 bananas and 2 apples
-A phone to use in case of excessive lostness
-An ipod loaded to the brim with intense techno beats to facilitate MAXIMUM SPEED.
Upon finishing my packing procedure and double checking to make sure that I had everything that I needed, I printed off my directions and was off! I ended up arriving safe and sound about nine hours later, which isn’t too bad of a time given that I got lost between six and seven times and went an extra twenty or so miles as a result and had to stop at a Korean restaurant because my food ran out and I got really hungry. There were stretches of back road that were covered in beautiful swaths of trees turning color for Fall, and there were multiple instances where I would pull off the side of the road and just spend a few minutes admiring the peaceful quietude of the countryside. It was by far one of the most pleasant trips that I’ve ever taken, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a long way to go and a lot of time to make the trip.
Some important advice I would have for anyone wishing to do so:
If you’re like I am and completely directionally incompetent, either bring a GPS or be prepared to stop and ask which direction the city you’re trying to go to is in a LOT of times.
Make sure to enjoy the process of the journey rather than focusing exclusively on your destination. Stop and take the time to talk to people along the way and to soak in the local flavor of all the little towns and farmlands that you pass through. This will also make it a lot less discouraging when you realize that you’ve been going in the wrong direction for five miles.
Not everyone has as many pockets as I did, and it’s no fun to take backpacks on really long trips because they make your back all sweaty, so see if you can find a trailer or a bag that you can mount on the back or front of your bike to transport all of your gear.
Finally, make sure to have fun and enjoy the freedom! There were stretches of over ten or fifteen miles on the back roads where I didn’t see a single other person or car. They were wonderfully liberating, and allowed me to relax a lot more than I’m able to when I’m in the city weaving in and out of car formations and trying not to get hit.
Good luck, and happy riding!